Budgets are screwed
We run a small company supporting schools in the UK.
We have a good reputation and undertake almost anything technical to do with ICT
As an ICT supplier to schools we've been affected by BSF as many here have though in different ways.
For us BSF meant being excluded from school with whom we had a good relationship with, only to be replaced with costly and ineffective company who then arguably mis- treated the technical staff we had been getting on so well with.
Money was probably the attraction for these big companies and they know how to protect their interests and extract the most cash from the system while promising to deliver “excellence” and “educational transformation”.
BSF is dead, and its clear the some BSF- ICT partners are under stress – arguably now seen as costly and incompetent and forced by the new Government to reduce costs by cuts to services and technical recourses.
The problem for me is that while I am not sorry that BSF is dead - I don't know or how to who offer our services to schools. Some many schools, so many waves. So much legal and contractual mess.
So much secrecy and double speak.
We don’t have a single national ICT education scheme / policy. Its fragmented and complex. And all compounded by massive legal implications, scary law firms and non disclosure agreements.
It’s a tangled up nightmare.
As a result how can things get better? How do we ensure that good decisions are made, and how should companies like mine ( taking a pride in making a difference to education and maintaining good long term relationships with schools) put ourselves forward ?
I think that many people here are genuinely interested in making schools great places for kids and make learning fun by reliable and powerful ICT.
I’m trying not selling my companies services in this post– but I do want to hear what others on the inside think. Please feel free to contact me privately if you want to speak more openly, or comment on the situation in your school / company / experience.
Budgets are screwed
This site is probably one of your best options, become a sponsor and get involved.
If a school is already part of the old BSF scheme, or is still to become such a school, then you're basically not going to be able to do business with them - as ICT will be contractually linked to a single supplier for a minimum term.
Your best bet is to get your company known in non-BSF schools, especially academies. Becoming a sponsor on here will help you, definitely, as you can then advertise on here.
Whatever you do, don't start cold calling schools. I give cold callers the cold shoulder - excuse the pun - because we get about 20 calls a day. Send something through the post, I'm more likely to read that during break.
Oops_my_bad (29th July 2011)
But do not use tactics one company - who shall remain nameless - did and that was to speak to me on the phone. I told them that the school had on site technical and leadership staff employed directly by the school, and everything was fine.
They then sent a letter direct to my Head - now luckily all his letters unless marked private are opened by the office and the spam sent direct to the right person, so I got it - stating that many similar schools used their service, and that two things made sense to schools using their company:
1) They had a large pool of well trained staff, who undoubtidly could do a better job than anyone employed directly by the school
2) Their services were much cheaper than directly employing staff, and that their technicians were so good that two days on site for them was better than five days on site employed directly by the school as "technicians work in mysterious ways". Basically hinting that we all sat on our arses all day and played FreeCiv!
Claiming they are better then any onsite technician is pathetically Rude, as a company you will have zero idea of what those on site techs are like. I have met many techs over the years (educational/business alike) and it still comes down to the individual being brilliant and not narrowed down to Business or education being the best techs. If that company had sent that letter to our Head, I can tell you he would phone them up and give them a piece of his mind.
The real problem with BSF was the aggressive payment mechanisms in most BSF ICT contracts, this is what forced the restrictive managed services which generated the bad press. BSF was always a construction-led affair and ICT should have remained separate. I once thought it was the fault of the "big bad businesses", until I got out into the big wide world and realised that those big businesses are actually made up of people trying to do their best and who on the whole bring skills and experiences you just can't gain from working inside a school or even a small number of schools. These people often have a challenging environment because hostility caused by the misconceptions described above is frankly verging on the ridiculous in SOME schools and LAs and has actively prevented schools getting the best from the available funds.
Having spent 12 years in jobs at each level in schools and then with a number of the big BSF suppliers my observation is that the idea that the big companies are to blame is flat wrong. They have actually brought design standards to the market which were missing from 90 percent of schools I've visited, who in SOME cases have spent a lot of money over the good years in a ad-hoc way sometimes without a plan and sometimes simply on whatever the latest craze was, without investing in quality infrastructure or best practices, often learning on live systems. In my experience this lack of standards and poor infrastructure design was very often caused by schools receiving bad advice from local small businesses who appear often to be happy to tell schools what they want to hear, instead of what they need to know, as well as selling cheap, instead of the correct solution for the requirement.
The people who work in the big businesses so often maligned have often delivered and/or supported dozens of schools within very demanding contractual climates and most of them started out in schools themselves, so perhaps those representing small businesses, such as the original poster, might like to consider this before pushing the "big bad business" misinformation.
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